Other Issues and Problems

Related to both the increasing competition and the need for a deaccessioning policy are some issues of international relations that must be addressed before their adverse effects on microbiology become irreparable. Prominent among these is the growth of foreign culture collections which are totally subsidized by foreign governments. In many instances, ATCC is asked to help stock these collections. The question arises as to whether foreign collections will be equally available to citizens of the sponsoring country and to scientists from other countries. The time is past when only the United States was capable of establishing and maintaining a first-class repository for biological materials, and it is time for the international scientific community to take advantage of this fact rather than squander funds in unnecessary duplication. ATCC may be the largest and most diverse collection in the world, but it is not the largest and most diverse in every area. The German national collection, for example has just announced it will be funding 77 scientists with long-term support for one of the best mycology collections in the world. ATCC currently has three Ph.D. mycologists. A precedent for the sort of international agreement required already exists in the Budapest Treaty governing patent deposits, 35 countries are signatories to this treaty, the most important point of which is the agreement to recognize deposits made in any of 28 international depository authorities (IDAs).

A different and more difficult international issue arises from the belief increasingly expressed by developing countries that indigenous germ plasm is being appropriated unfairly by the developed nations and serving as the basis of lucrative commercial enterprises. The result has been a plethora of national policies restricting export of indigenous materials and establishing highly proprietary national collections, even to the point of renaming organisms.

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